Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Where I Was - 2009

Continuing the tradition from last several years, here's where I was in 2009:

Chicago, IL *
Champaign, IL
Indianapolis, IN
London, England
Dublin, Ireland
Ada, MI
Panora, IA
St. Paul, MN
Elbow Lake, MN
Battle Lake, MN
Alexandria, MN
Greenville, IL*
New York City, NY (Manhattan and Brooklyn)

How about you, where were you?

Criteria = One or more nights spent in each place. Those cities marked with an * were visited multiple times on non-consecutive days.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Photos the World Over

On this Thanksgiving Day, I want to take the chance to point you towards some of the photos in the National Geographic's International Photography Contest.  We live in a big world, and it's often good to remind us of that, in the midst of being thankful what we are blessed with.  Enjoy the photos, and Happy Thanksgiving.

Monday, November 23, 2009

25 Years Later

Twenty-five years ago, the #1 ranked high school basketball player in the nation was shot and killed.  Ben Wilson's death resonated across the country.  In the Sunday Chicago Tribune, he's remembered by K.C. Johnson who was a member of the Evanston basketball team that lost to Wilson's Simeon team in the state championship, in his last high school game.  His violent death came to personify the rising violence that was part of the growing drug epidemic in Chicago.  Today it's worth being reminded by the continued sadness at his death that unfortunately the problem of urban gun violence is not also a story of the past. 

Ben is still probably not the most famous basketball player to wear #25, though.  Another famous man born in the 60s who also wore #25 likely wins that honor, and now maybe has the chance to do something about the violence still ongoing.

Monday, November 16, 2009

On Stats (and Football)

I cannot understand the outcry today over Bill Belichick's decision to 'go for it' in last night's game.  Not a single media member that I have seen on TV has stopped to ponder whether it was a decent decision.  Nope, they've been quick to pile on.  Yes, the decision didn't work out.  But let's not kid ourselves, it was unequivocally the right one.

As Nate Silver observes (yes, of PECOTA and 538 fame),

Bill Belichick is not dumb, provided that his goal is to help the New England Patriots win football games. Instead, much of the NFL's conventional wisdom on when to go for it on fourth down is horribly, horribly wrong -- teams are way too conservative and punt way too often. This is the one case where 9-year olds playing Madden -- it's no fun to punt in a video game -- quite literally make better decisions than most NFL head coaches. With that said, since the same flawed conventional wisdom can govern hiring and firing decisions, there may be a price to be paid for unconventional (if statistically correct) playcalling; see also Marty Mornhinweg.

If you follow that first link, it affirms--the Pats had a 79% chance of winning doing what they did, versus 70% by punting. So why is there outrage?

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

On Football, Part 2

And worth reading as well, Malcom Gladwell, again on football.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

On Football, Part 1

Well worth reading is fellow far upper Midwesterner Chuck Klosterman on football.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

How Gangs are like Al-Qaeda

Since my last post on the problem of violence amongst youngsters here in Chicago, there has been much rhetoric about "fixing" the problem.  I don't think it's that simple.

But I do think this article was interesting and probably true.  As he notes,

Understanding this may help us prevent future violence in our communities.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Wall Street's Billions

The past quarter has been very good to the investment banks on Wall Street.  JPMorgan Chase reported $3.6 billion in profit and Goldman Sachs came in at $3.2 billion.  How have they been able to do this well with many other banks continuing to struggle, and the everyday citizen still feeling the effects of a tough economy?

Is it this simple?

(ht: kottke)

Monday, October 19, 2009

The Flu (Vaccine) Scare

So far this year about 1,000 have died in the USA from the swine flue. Thankfully an effective safe vaccine exists to prevent the condition.

Wait, what? People don't want the vaccine? They fear it's part of a global government scheme to practice population control? That pharmaceutical companies are inserting additives to ensure people get sick again, thereby ensuring their future revenue? The Chicago Tribune ran an article detailing two mothers' choices in vaccinating or not, treating both as viable options. Conspiracy theories abound.

All the reliable research I have seen indicates vaccines, including this one, are safe. Thus, it has been surprising to me that such an uproar is being made in our country. I wonder if medicine has become too effective and our lives too comfortable if we take for granted the saving power medicine has in our lives. We live at the point in recorded human history at which life expectancy is the longest. And yet people question the very medical advances that have made this possible? It doesn't make sense to me. I wonder how many mothers will be glad they didn't get the vaccine when their child gets sick?

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The world's greatest city?

Which city do you think is the world's greatest? The editors of Time Out asked that question and here's their list:
1. New York
2. London
3. Paris
4. Berlin
5-tie. Barcelona
5-tie. Chicago
5-tie. Tokyo
8. Istanbul (not Constantinople)
9-tie. Rome
9-tie. Sidney

It's a fascinating list, and their reasoning seems good to me. I don't have many qualms with their rankings. The other fun thing on the site is that you can score the cities yourself. So for those of you who have travelled a lot, contribute away.

Monday, October 12, 2009

The Prodigal God

As you can see on the right, I've just finished reading The Prodigal God. Because I've just been reading it, I've been thinking about it a lot, but let me just say that it's a great book. And thus, I wanted to use this forum to pass on the recommendation.

It's subtitled Recovering the Heart of the Christian Faith, and I think that's an apt description. Tim Keller uses the parable of the Prodigal Sons to drive home the true message of the Gospel. If you're looking for a great synopsis of what the Christian message is all about, I highly recommend this book.

And if you think it's possibly mis-titled, you definitely need to read it.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

The Beating Death of an Innocent

Last Thursday on the far south side of Chicago, a 16-year old boy was beaten to death after stumbling into a gang fight. You've probably heard of this story.

The day after the incident, however, it didn't draw much attention. While mentioned on the news, it wasn't really 'news'. Unfortunately, the death of a young black man in a city doesn't bring the same attention most other murders do.

By the weekend, though, that began to change. But not for good reasons. On Saturday, Fox Chicago obtained a cell phone video showing the incident. Immediately, other news organizations picked up the story and showed stills from the video. All of a sudden, the police began to feel great pressure to act as the outcry cause by the brutality so apparent on the video was loud.

By Monday, the story had gone national. Links to it were found on the homepages of CNN, MSNBC, and a link to the video was the headline on Drudge. You see, this week Chicago is also finding out its Olympic fate. The combination of the ramifications of such a public brutal murder on the Olympic bid and the presence of the video itself meant the story was definitely now 'news'.

In a city where the murder of young black men is all too frequent, and usually overlooked, it is no longer the case. For now at least...

Think back to your own knowledge of this story. When did you find out about it? Was it just recently? Think about the implications media coverage has on what we deem important.

You see, this incident was not the only occurrence of innocent death at the end of last week. You may also have heard about this one, but more likely not. On Friday, two teens were gunned down in North Lawndale (one block from where several of my Little Leaguers have lived) on their front porch. There have been no arrests in this incident. And much less public outcry. Sadly, these college kids were not safe even at home and it doesn't seem to be that big a deal. There certainly isn't the national microscope on this incident. And I can't help but wonder, is that because there wasn't a dramatic violent video for these murders?

Until these tragedies are felt with the same emotion every time they occur as the beating death has wrought this week, we will have a problem. There is a scourge of violence amongst certain communities in our country, and work needs to be accelerated to end it. The equitable education of all our youngsters is a right we have not done enough to achieve. If anything good can come of these incidents, my prayer is that it results in fewer of them down the road.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Health Care

As it seems like we all are taking some time to consider health care in our country, I thought this article was well worth passing on.

The Atlantic prefaces it this way:
After the needless death of his father, the author, a business executive, began a personal exploration of a health-care industry that for years has delivered poor service and irregular quality at astonishingly high cost. It is a system, he argues, that is not worth preserving in anything like its current form. And the health-care reform now being contemplated will not fix it. Here’s a radical solution to an agonizing problem.
With no further ado, an article some have called a must-read, How American Health Care Killed My Father.

(ht: JT)

Thursday, September 03, 2009

In Defense of HSR

Good analysis by Yonah Freemark on why High Speed Rail has potential.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

The Ricky Rubio Situation

A lot of fanfare is being made out of the fact that Ricky Rubio is not going to be coming to NBA and play with the Timberwolves this year after all. Many are blaming David Kahn for the situation. Personally, I think that's shortsighted. The only upside in my mind to him coming over now would have been drawing more fans. Maybe that would be a good thing, but for the future of the Wolves, I think Rubio developing for another couple years in Spain is fine.

Let's be honest, the Wolves aren't making the playoffs next year, and probably not the year after that either. So what is it setting them back? If they find out what they have in Flynn, they're that much further along. Many, such as The Sports Guy have been pretty down on Kahn. Simmons recently posted on Twitter, "Hey Kahn defenders: You think a team that's BLEEDING MONEY wanted to bottom out again, take on bad salaries & wait 2 yrs for Rubio? Really?" This was the latest in several posts directed at Kahn's maneuvering. I disagree, and so here's what I wrote The Sports Guy:

Okay Bill,
We need you to write a little further on this Timberwolves situation. As a fan (yes, I know that makes me biased) I think you're being a little harsh in regard to their draft results.

I'm with you in thinking Kahn deserved to be questioned based on his lack of experience. But now that we have him, let's see what happens.

You've said yourself (in the New Yorker): "Just play your best five or six guys and figure the rest out later. In the old days, nobody gave a crap about positions." You've also said that teams in the draft should take the best available player and not draft for need. So why so down on the Wolves for taking the two players they thought were the best left on the draft board? You've said yourself that you like both Rubio and Flynn. And based on the LV league, I think I'd still rather have Flynn than Curry. Are both players PG? Yes. But how disastrous would it be to play two great PGs together? Would a team be terrible if they played Chris Paul and Deron Williams together with a great wing, a great inside scorer, and a great rebounder?

What if Rubio and Flynn are nearly as good as the aforementioned? With a good shooter on the wing (Ellington) and the scorer and rebounder extraordinaire inside (Jefferson and Love), how far away are you from being a legit presence in the league?
I can think of much worse combinations. And further, if Rubio or Flynn do not pan out, you are still not in bad shape. I think the Wolves thought, and I think correctly so, we're not good enough to draft for need, let's take the best players available, and in a couple years, figure out which parts to keep in order to turn this thing into a championship.

I'd further note that I have to agree with what what Ken Berger of CBSSports observes in regard to the situation:

So Rubio will mature and get better -- albeit against sub-NBA competition -- and Kahn's team will begin the rebuilding process with a very capable point guard in Flinn. Can the two play together in the same backcourt in 2011-12? Time will tell. But in the meantime, Kahn moves forward with a formidable asset in Rubio. Even if he never plays a single game in Minnesota.

Kahn is quickly becoming the most mysterious executive in the NBA, tearing a page straight from the book written by his mentor, Donnie Walsh. He is humorless and needs to brush up on his people skills -- despite the fact that he's a former member of the media. (Maybe this explains why he is a former member.) But I'll give him credit for this much: It took a certain amount of gumption to welcome a controversy like this with the very first and most important decision of his regime. Whether it ultimately works out or not is very much an unknown. Say Kahn is in over his head if you want; you might ultimately be correct. But I have no problem giving Kahn credit for being unafraid of Fegan and all the contractual entanglements that came with Rubio. Enjoy Barcelona, Ricky. See you in 2011.

What are your thoughts?

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

I'm Famous... Kind Of

So I'm overly excited to share some unexceptional news. I've now been featured on not one, but two of my favorite blogs. As those who follow the blog closely, about three years ago, an exchange I had with Henry Abbott at TrueHoop was posted on his well read (the best NBA blog, bar none) blog.

Now, though, I've gotten exposure on one of the top blogs in existence.

Yep, Westy is quoted on the Freakonomics blog. Enjoy reading the extremely deep question I asked... Hey, at least I inspired the title.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

What Did You Do Last Night?

Chances are, if it was between 2:20 and 3:50, you were sleeping. Between those times, the greatest number of people in America are sleeping, at 95%. That was by far the highest percentage of people doing the same thing at the same time at any point in the day. Next highest was from 10:20 to 11:00 when 33% of people were working.

You can glean these and many other fascinating tidbits from this captivating chart from the NYT.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Movie of the Decade?

Last week, some of us were discussing what the movie of the decade (the '00s) was, now that it's almost over. And yes, we were inspired by the Bill Simmons article on the subject.

So, of course, I'm curious; what are your favorite movies of the decade? For those curious, here is a list of the Oscar winning films from these years:

2009 Slumdog Millionaire
2008 No Country for Old Men
2007 The Departed
2006 Crash
2005 Million Dollar Baby
2004 The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King
2003 Chicago
2002 A Beautiful Mind
2001 Gladiator

Others to consider?

Almost Famous
the Bourne Trilogy
Finding Nemo
The Incredibles
Batman Begins
The Dark Knight
Spiderman 2
Bowling for Columbine
Gran Torino
Mystic River
Born Into Brothels
Little Miss Sunshine
Napolean Dynamite

What is your best-loved? I will post my own favorites to the comments in the next couple days.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Chicago Then and Now

On Friday night we were for the first time this season taking in a show at Millennium Park. A fellow concert goer and I were admiring the awe-inspiring view from the venue, and as we were discussing what a positive the park is, we reflected back on how far it's come. I think it's a history many may be unfamiliar with, and so I thought it would be worth a march back in time...

The area now including Millennium and Grant Parks actually didn't really exist prior to the Chicago Fire of 1871. As a result of that catastrophe, landfill and trash were dumped at what was then the lakefront creating more shore, and creating a landfill area that would become these parks. By 1890, here's what the area looked like.

By the mid-20th century, though, the area had been overrun by railroads, parking lots, and poor planning. Come the mid-1980s, things were looking a little better, but what's today Millennium Park was still pretty much just a railroad yard.

With the completion of Millennium Park and now the Modern Wing of the Art Institute this decade, however, the area has become a world-class destination.

Monday, July 06, 2009

Ruins of Humanity

Whenever I have had the chance to tour ruins of old manmade fortresses, I have been moved by the history, the decay, and the omnipresence of change we see throughout our lives. Interestingly, ruins don't have to be all that old to inspire some pretty good reflection on humanity. Last week, the New York Times featured a photo essay documenting the stall of development in the USA in our current recession. Its images are haunting.

It actually reminded me of another photo essay of lost grandeur I also recently viewed documenting Detroit's fall.

Together these groups of photos serve as a healthy reminder that our lives here are pretty temporal.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Ring Roads

This image produced by the Rice School of Architecture is pretty cool.

They note it shows the "ring roads from 27 international cities and the same scale. As it turn[s] out, Houston has the largest system of those...surveyed. (Beijing was second)"

I'll leave the interpretations to you.

(ht: Kottke)

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Earth From Above

As a huge fan of Yann Arthus-Bertrand's Earth From Above, I wanted to take the chance to point you to these fantastic photos by Jason Hawkes. My favorites are #8 and 23. Yours?

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Let Your Kids Roam Free

One thing I don't want to be is a hovering parent. Thus, I enjoyed this article on allowing your kids to have 'free-range'.

She notes,

There is a 1 in 1.5 million chance that your kid would be abducted and killed by a stranger. It is hard to wrap your mind around those numbers, and everybody always assumes: What if it's my 1 in 1.5 million?

If you don't want to have your child in any kind of danger, you really can't do anything. You certainly couldn't drive them in a car, because that's the No. 1 way kids die, as passengers in car accidents.

Certainly, let's consider the benefits allowing our children some independence will bring.

Monday, May 11, 2009


I've written before about the recruiting world of high school basketball. And as most who follow it know, it's only beginning earlier and earlier for today's young players.

In a pretty interesting article on three young 8th-graders who will be going to high school in Chicago next year, Michael O'Brien of the Sun-Times notes,

High school basketball is undergoing a dramatic shift. The focus on younger players likely is here to stay and figures to intensify over the next few years.

More players are committing to colleges as freshmen, which means college coaches, recruiting analysts and the media have begun to pay serious attention to seventh- and eighth-grade players.

I'm just looking forward to watching these guys play next year. And if they end up in the orange & blue in four years, even better.

Thursday, May 07, 2009


So, the Las Vegas Sun reports,

Geographers from Kansas State University did a study called 'The Spatial Distribution of the Seven Deadly Sins.'

Hmm, well, what does that mean? It means you have some pretty interesting maps showing their respective prevalence, that's what it means. From what I can tell, Chicago's biggest problem is with greed. Check it out.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009


My high school team did it. And I'm a pretty big proponent. I love the run and gun that results.

Although, probably not for junior high, where I think it should be about more than winning.

Pressing in basketball. Just thinking about it, I bet you envisioned an exciting game. So, is it underused?

Malcom Gladwell thinks so. Definitely read the article. It's moreso an analysis of how an underdog can optimize their chances of success. But very interesting, as always.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Reading Material

So, I'm off to London tomorrow. For a long-awaited family vacation. I'm definitely looking forward to it. I'll provide you a recap in a couple weeks.

For now, though, let me leave you with a link to this story to occupy the interim. Enjoy this tale of an unknown soldier whose last living sight was of the extremely emotional kind.

(ht: Kottke)

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Reinventing America's Cities

Some have asserted that today's economic situation presents an opportunity to reformulate the usual means with which the country's infrastructure is paid for and the focus of the improvements. The very physical structure of our country may again need to be shifted. Indeed, there is no doubt that the way things worked last decade is now outdated. As stated by Richard Florida in the article I linked below,

But another crucial aspect of the crisis has been largely overlooked, and it might ultimately prove more important. Because America’s tendency to overconsume and under-save has been intimately intertwined with our postwar spatial fix—that is, with housing and suburbanization—the shape of the economy has been badly distorted, from where people live, to where investment flows, to what’s produced. Unless we make fundamental policy changes to eliminate these distortions, the economy is likely to face worsening handicaps in the years ahead.

Suburbanization—and the sprawling growth it propelled—made sense for a time. The cities of the early and mid-20th century were dirty, sooty, smelly, and crowded, and commuting from the first, close-in suburbs was fast and easy. And as manufacturing became more technologically stable and product lines matured during the postwar boom, suburban growth dovetailed nicely with the pattern of industrial growth. Businesses began opening new plants in green-field locations that featured cheaper land and labor; management saw no reason to continue making now-standardized products in the expensive urban locations where they’d first been developed and sold. Work was outsourced to then-new suburbs and the emerging areas of the Sun Belt, whose connections to bigger cities by the highway system afforded rapid, low-cost distribution. This process brought the Sun Belt economies (which had lagged since the Civil War) into modern times, and sustained a long boom for the United States as a whole.

But that was then; the economy is different now...

Along these lines, the NYT ran this fascinating article outlining some visions for reinventing the city in America. Using four examples, in New Orleans, Buffalo, LA, and the Bronx, ideas for rebuilding, reformulating, and reinvigorating our cities are examined. Using good planning and smart design, these changes can not only bring rejuvenation to an individual city, but collectively to our country.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

The U.S. Economy Does Not Exist

So says the headline on this short snippet describing a study that claims,

The United States is not a single unified economy nor even a breakdown of 50 state economies. Instead, the country's 100 largest metropolitan regions are the real drivers of economic activity, generating two-thirds of the nation's jobs and three-quarters of its output. The sooner we reorient federal economic policies to support this "MetroNation," the quicker we can fix the mess we're in.

It's an intriguing idea, and one that actually makes sense. Chicago, for instance, would be the world's 18th largest economy if it were a country, right after Turkey and before Sweden. And with the economic climate the way it is, there is little doubt that the 'crisis' will affect different metropolitan areas in varying ways.

Richard Florida examined this idea in a fascinating article called How the Crash Will Reshape America. He observes,
The crash of 2008 continues to reverberate loudly nationwide—destroying jobs, bankrupting businesses, and displacing homeowners. But already, it has damaged some places much more severely than others. On the other side of the crisis, America’s economic landscape will look very different than it does today. What fate will the coming years hold for New York, Charlotte, Detroit, Las Vegas? Will the suburbs be ineffably changed? Which cities and regions can come back strong? And which will never come back at all?

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Our Past

I've spent some time over the past few years working on my genealogy. It's fun, but definitely some work. No matter who we are, I'm pretty sure most of us have some pretty interesting stories in our families' past. Part of the fun tracking down our ancestors is learning their stories.

Since I have some of that interest, I had a soft spot for this fantastic story that ties together a family's immigration story and Chicago.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Iceland Melts Down

Michael Lewis has written a fantastic article documenting the downfall of Iceland's financial system. I fully expect this piece to be in his upcoming book, and it is well worth reading to further understand the global interactions that led to the place we've come to.

He observes,
An entire nation without immediate experience or even distant memory of high finance had gazed upon the example of Wall Street and said, “We can do that.”

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Abandoned Real Estate

One of the byproducts of the big real estate slowdown is that many homes and buildings for which the owners can no longer afford payment are being foreclosed upon. Subsequently, they are abandoned. There's probably no more visible display of the downturn than neighborhoods filled with empty buildings.

Mint's blog has done a great job documenting some of these locations in this post. Kind of eery, really. And for a more extensive treatment of the issue, this weekend's NYT magazine features an article on the abandoned homes problem in Cleveland by one of my favorite authors, Alex Kotlowitz.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Robinson Crusoe

Did you know Robinson Crusoe was based on a real man?

Generations of children have been spellbound by Robinson Crusoe's exploits, but few are aware of the real-life figure who inspired the classic. Now, 300 years after he left his island prison, scientists have pieced together how the real Crusoe managed to survive.

Meet Alexander Selkirk.

Monday, March 02, 2009


As you can see at the right, I'm currently reading a book called King Leopold's Ghost. It's a fantastic and educational book telling of the genocide around the turn of last century in what today is Congo. The chilling stories and abuse are heartwrenching even today.

And it becomes even moreso when we see evidence today of the continuing suffering the people of this region are experiencing. The excellent blog, The Big Picture, has documented over the last few months some of the difficulties there.

Entry #1 (the most moving picture to me-- #19)

Entry #2 (#4 and #5)

Entry #3 (#33)

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Calvin Explains The World Today

Some people are always a bit ahead of their time. And I think this strip proves that Bill Watterson undoubtedly is one of those people.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Is Talent Born or Made?

This age-old question has arisen again in a slightly different format. Research has shown that what often separates superstars from everyday performers is just practice. Obviously, that makes a pretty good story. Most of the stories on this subject reference the work of Anders Ericsson, who has advanced some of this thought.

But can it be that any of us has the potential to be great, if only we had put in the time? This is basically the question Malcom Gladwell tackles in his latest book called Outliers, which ponders the question of how a person who's an outlier comes to be so. As you can see on the right, it's a book I recently read, and I would definitely recommend. In my opinion, while he does somewhat shortchange the role of genetics in the production of talent, nonetheless, it's a great summary of research in the area. And if it's a topic that you find interesting, there are several recent books that discuss it as well.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

The Places We Live

Today, I aim only to point you to this, a stunning site, which reminds us of our own blessings while educating us about the world we live in.

Friday, February 06, 2009

Wired Education

I was excited to hear there are now college classes on one of our favorite TV shows, The Wire. From the course description:

Discerning critics and avid fans have agreed that the five-season run of Ed Burns and David Simon's The Wire was "the best TV show ever broadcast in America"--not the most popular but the best. The 60 hours that comprise this episodic series have been aptly been compared to Dickens, Balzac, Dreiser and Greek Tragedy. These comparisons attempt to get at the richly textured complexity of the work, its depth, its bleak tapestry of an American city and its diverse social stratifications. Yet none of these comparisons quite nails what it is that made this the most compelling "show" on TV and better than many of the best movies. This class will explore these comparisons, analyze episodes from the first, third, fourth and fifth seasons and try to discover what was and is so great about The Wire. We will screen as much of the series as we can during our mandatory screening sessions and approach it through the following lenses: the other writing of David Simon, including his journalism, an exemplary Greek Tragedy, Dickens' Bleak House and/or parts of Balzac's Human Comedy. We will also consider the formal tradition of episodic television.

Unfortunately, college days are long over for me, and so I won't be able to take said classes. But if you have the option, make sure you do. But at the very least, just go out and rent the DVDs already. And really, that's probably good enough.

(ht: Kottke)

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Mass Transit Spending

Obviously there is a lot of back and forth going on right now as to what exactly the stimulus bill will contain. I will admit that as a transportation design professional I am admittedly biased. I would love to see as much transportation spending as possible.

But I would especially love to see a large influx of funds marked for mass transit spending use. As our nation looks at the role transportation will play in its future, I am a big proponent of the positives an efficient nationwide mass transit system will bring. This article does a better job than I would making this case, and so I encourage you to go check it out. And if you have the opportunity, talk to your representatives and urge them to do what they can to increase transit funding.

Monday, February 02, 2009

The Evil Behind the Smiles

Recently, I posted about the ongoing problem of slavery in the world today. Now, I strongly encourage you to read Nicholas Kristof's latest columns about sexual slavery in southeast Asia in order to become more informed.

The columns and associated videos are informative but heartwrenching. After seeing the movie Taken, which depicts the similar problem in Europe and reading these columns, there's no doubt that I'm motivated to see change come for these women. The cruelty exhibited and sad reality so many of these women face is disturbing.

Do your part, get informed, and make a difference!

Monday, January 26, 2009


As I have pointed out before (really, go re-read that one), the fine governor of our fine state of Illinois, Mr. Rod Blagojevich, is a bit on the odd side. (You don't say?)

Today he was making the media rounds (you know, the typical serious venues for someone accused of simple things like impeachment, The View, etc.), attempting to explain away whatever utter foolishness was captured on tape by the feds last year. Does anyone think this is working?

On Friday, he again gave us a quote that is perplexing enough to be funny. The AP explained:

Blagojevich, a fan of Western movies, drew a long analogy Friday between his situation and that of a cowboy falsely accused of stealing a horse. His story ended with one cowboy suggesting the accused thief be hanged, with the other suggesting he first be tried, then hanged.

Not to sell it short, here's the full quote from the governor himself:

Now, I like old movies and I like old cowboy movies, and I want to explain how these rules work in a more understandable way. There was an old saying in the Old West. There was a cowboy who was charged with stealing a horse in town. And some of the other cowboys, especially the guy whose horse was stolen, were very unhappy with that guy. And one of the cowboys said, "Let's hang him." Then the other cowboys said, "Hold on. Before we hang him, let's first give him a fair trial. Then we'll hang him." Under these rules, I'm not even getting a fair trial. They're just hanging me. And when they hang me under these rules, that prevent due process, they're hanging the 12 million people of Illinois who twice have elected a governor.

Now, they may be for or against me. They may like me or not. But the people of Illinois have every right to expect that the decision they've made when they have chosen a governor, if he or she is going to be removed from office, that the process ought to at least have fundamental fairness and have all the safeguards that our Constitution guarantees to all of our citizens. Under these rules, Rule 15F and Rule 8B, under that fact pattern I just gave you, if the cowboy who's charged with stealing a horse was charged with doing that in town, but in fact on the date and time that he apparently stole the horse in town he was on the ranch with six other cowboys herding cattle and roping steers, and then he expects that when his day comes to go to court he can bring those six cowboys to say it wasn't him because he wasn't in town, he was on the ranch herding cattle -- even if he could bring those cowboys in to say that, under these rules, under 8B, it wouldn't matter. The complaint that charged him with stealing the horse would convict him because you can't challenge it and you can't have a chance to be able to contest it. Again, not fair; in fact, worse: trampling on constitutional rights.

Wow. Just wow. Mayor Daley had only one word to describe this turn of events...

Monday, January 19, 2009

Volkswagen Hacked

In the midst of the rest of the financial meltdown, one of the most incredible stories in the financial world has largely been forgotten.

Now, laid out clearly is the story of how Porsche hacked the financial system and made a killing on Volkswagen. Wow, what a tale, and what a sad ending.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Burger Chains

Recently, several national fast food hamburger joints have opened their first branch in Chicagoland. The Trib has the rundown.

All I would add is, In-N-Out please?

Monday, January 05, 2009


Only one year away now. That's kind of astounding for a lot of reasons. But, it could potentially be a history-making year if one Russian professor's predictions comes true.

For a decade, Russian academic Igor Panarin has been predicting the U.S. will fall apart in 2010... that an economic and moral collapse will trigger a civil war and the eventual breakup of the U.S.

Considering the recent economic malaise, people are paying a little more attention than usual. Here's how he says it would go:

[Ongoing] mass immigration, economic decline, and moral degradation will trigger a civil war next fall and the collapse of the dollar. Around the end of June 2010, or early July the U.S. will break into six pieces -- with Alaska reverting to Russian control.

Here's a map of the USA as he sees it being by then:

So what do you think are the chances he's correct?

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Obama's Infrastructure Impact

As an infrastructure design engineer, my coworkers and I have been watching with great interest the plans President Elect Obama has been working on for an economic stimulus package that will include vast infrastructure spending. While a bill such as this would obviously be good for business, I'm more excited for it on the results side. I truly think that investments in well designed infrastructure are vital components in building our future. These are the sort of physical investments that not only add character to communities, but add livability.

As Obama has prepared to take office, it has become clear that investment in cities will be a tangible aspect of his policy. Several of his Cabinet selections are, I think, good selections from this point of view. Considering he's from here and adding on the possibility of the Olympics, I'm very excited about the possible future investments Chicago is going to see. Certainly there is an aspect of that excitement that is very self-interested, but I think this investment will prove to be valuable to all residents. And similar investments across the country will likewise prove very worthwhile, in my opinion.

Friday, January 02, 2009

Where I Was - 2008

Continuing the tradition from last year, here's where I was in 2008:

Chicago, IL *
Marble Falls, TX
San Antonio, TX
Livermore, CA
Greenville, IL *
Lake Geneva, WI
Indianapolis, IN
LaGrange, IL
St. Paul, MN

Hmm, somewhat shorter again. Apparently we need to make some trips. I'm sure we'll get to it in a few decades.

How about you, where were you?

Criteria = One or more nights spent in each place. Those cities marked with an * were visited multiple times on non-consecutive days.